It was clearly going to happen of course. Snow falls on the country, airports close for a bit and suddenly there are calls that all airports should be nationalised again. Our lack of surprise comes from the fact that we know very well that there are those who can see the mote of market problems, but not the beam of Government failure. For it simply isn’t true that transfering the running of something from those who hope to make a profit from it to those who would preen and posture for the electorate will hve the effect of kissing that scraped knee and making everything better. Despite the childish insistence that it will.
A case in point might be another little weather related story of these past few days, the water situation in Northern Ireland.
Large parts of Northern Ireland have been subjected to water rationing as engineers battle to fix a huge number of leaks.
In the wake of the thaw that followed arctic weather conditions, burst pipes in the main water supply, plus many in private homes and businesses, have left thousands of people without water.
Northern Ireland Water, (NIW) the company that oversees the service, came under fire for failing to cope with the deluge of calls from the public, though it argued it was doing its best to meet needs.
But with water levels running low in reservoirs, officials said supplies would have to be alternated to different locations as work to repair the damage continued.
I’m not quite sure how they’ve managed it, but they have. An excess of precipitation has led to empty reservoirs: and they’ve managed to get to a water shortage on the island of Ireland, of all places on the planet to manage it. It’s as if someone had contrived to achieve the impossible, a shortage of fools in Parliament.
But why has this happened? It hasn’t happened in England, Wales or Scotland, and we’ve all been subject to much the same weather. The answer would seem to lie in the way that the water system in NI was not bundled up and privatised (each of the four constituent parts of the UK had different arrangements at privatisation), rather, it stayed as a service directly run by government. Not even a not for profit company or a mutual between the politicians and the water coming from the taps (this was finally changed just a year or two back but water is a long term business).
A bit of cold weather, reservoirs emptying, the population quite without water: this would seem to be the result of letting government run something directly rather than selling it off to people who would make a profit.
Of course, I am being extreme: but we really do have to keep reminding everyone that the existence of either market failure or failures of market based organisations does not mean that government is going to do better.